Rethinking Data Visualization

note: this was a post I wrote way back in June and forgot to publish here… it did get published on the News21 ASU blog

After the first serious “visuals” brainstorm of the Latinos in the Military project — with Andrew Long, Jason Manning and N21 fellows Chris Cameron and myself — I’m thinking a lot about data, and how data tells a story.

sketch

White-boarding our thoughts on data visualization... The final product will be a little more polished.

When I think and read about data visualization, it’s mostly about the aesthetics of the information and the way a user navigates through the information. As much as we want our data to look nice and be user-friendly, our story lends itself particularly well to what I think is a next step for journalism — a marriage of visual data and narrative storytelling.

One way we might do this is to invite people into the narrative stories — videos in our case — with pieces of data. For example, the user could enter a page that says there are 1.1 million Latino veterans, then they see a million little dots representing the people, and then a few people pop up to represent the specific veterans in our story. This part might look a little like the ‘Did You Know?’ video we (at ASU at least) all love so much.

Another way we’re thinking about the marriage of data and narrative is in relation to Faces of the Fallen. WashingtonPost.com shows us essential stats of all the folks that have died in the current conflicts, which is powerful because of its scale. Our approach might be an inverse of that; going much deeper with far fewer people.

Inspiration is on its way. I can feel it.

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News21: a day in the life*

Day Two probably won’t turn out to be typical, but with only 10 weeks, I’m not sure typical exists! I’m sure I’ve left some stuff out, but this gives a general idea of what I’m up to.

7:30 am: Arrive at Cronkite school, check emails, respond to an interview request reply, look at and news updates about Latinos in the military, DREAM Act
8: Look at a couple of Pew reports for info to go in a surprising facts video
9: Catch up on some discussions on the News21 Ning, post to the discussion board about our national question; this took longer than it should have because I’m a bad Ninger
10: Go home to pick up Mom and take her to the airport (obviously won’t be part of the routine, but still)
11:30: Return to Cronkite school. Review project proposal to make sure I’m covering all the bases. Realize I’m not and make a couple of phone calls
12:30 pm: Leave for defensive driver training at the Mercado (since the University is funding our rentals cars for later travel, we had to do this 2-hour course)
3:00: Return to Cronkite building. Strategy meeting with story-partner, Chris
3:15: Chris and I retreat to an edit bay for speaker phone interview attempts. Leave messages for two senators. Talk to aids at two congressional offices; send emails to congressional “schedulers”
3:45: Call a source from a non-profit; hear about his program for about 30 minutes, plan to call again tomorrow for follow-up questions and recommendation of more sources
4:15: Debrief, plan of attack for tomorrow
4:30: Catch up with Rick and Jason; the bosses
5: Write out a to-do list for tomorrow. It feels like I got hardly anything done today!
5:15: Oooh, my IPUMS data is ready. I’ll probably play with that for a while after I finish this post
5:45: Talk amnesty data with Evan, help him poke around on Census site

Two days down, 68 to go. Must. Be. Awesome.

*A tweet from @joshsprague inspired this post